Jalapeño jelly

I stirred the jalapeño jelly mixture as it boiled, mock-grumbling about the heat and humidity. “Why do we do this again?” I asked. There wasn’t a heat wave, thank goodness, but the canning process had already raised the temperature inside the kitchen by three degrees Celsius. To save electricity, we had turned airconditioning off while I worked in the kitchen. So it was just me, a fan, and three stove burners going at once: the jelly mix, the canning water bath, and a small pot to sterilize the lids.

I lifted the Mason jars out of the large canning pot, where they had been simmering for the last fifteen minutes. The routine was starting to come back to me: place the canning funnel; ladle the jelly into the jar; leave some headroom, scooping jelly out if needed; pop the bubbles; wipe the rim and the jar threads; use the magnet to pick up and place a lid; tighten the ring, then loosen it just a little bit.

It was still hard to imagine that I’d once prepared 95 bottles of jam/jelly/syrup during last year’s epic Canada Day weekend jam-making session – tokens for our wedding guests and gifts for other occasions. We’d somehow managed to give away or finish all of our blueberry jam. I’ve been waiting for blueberries to go on sale, but we haven’t seen prices like last year’s – maybe the yield hasn’t been as good this year. But jalapeño peppers were back to their sale price, so we scooped up enough for a double recipe.

As I bottled more jelly, the motions began to feel more familiar. I was happy to see the recipe was just the right volume for the seven bottles I’d sterilized. I lowered the jalapeño jelly into the large canning pot filled with hot water, set the timer, and turned up the heat.

After fifteen minutes, I used the canning tongs to pull out a jar. As the air inside the first jar cooled and contracted, the lid was sucked in by the vacuum. It popped reassuringly, resulting in a slight depression in the center of the lid. Each jar popped within a few seconds of removal from the canner. With each pop, the heat seemed to recede a bit further, replaced with memories of jalapeño spread on cream cheese and crackers. I moved the jars to the kitchen table and started working on the second batch of seven jars. It went more smoothly. If we had more produce – and a long weekend ahead of us – I could see how I might’ve kept on going.

For us, canning isn’t about the $1/lb difference between on-sale jalapeños and regular jalapeños (or other produce), the ability to enjoy the taste of summer while snow buries the earth, or even traditional recipes handed down through generations. The first time I ever canned something was during our August 2009 staycation, using recipes from the Internet, and I don’t actually tend to reach for jam or jelly when I have toast.

I sweat through the canning process for other reasons: enjoying tastes that are difficult to find at the local supermarket (such as apricot syrup and jalapeño jelly), and making gifts instead of giving things that people might be able to buy elsewhere. At the end of the day, I think it’s worth it.

Jalapeño jelly adapted from What’s Cooking America; we had an extra pepper, so I added a little more liquid pectin. Processed in hot water for 15 minutes, based on our old recipe.

Fills 7 – 8 500ml jars, depending on the sizes of your peppers

  • 4 whole jalapeño peppers
  • 9 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed
  • 2 medium or 1 large bell pepper (the recipe recommends non-green peppers, but we were fine with green as we had them around)
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I squeezed them last week)
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 170ml Certo liquid pectin (2 pouches or 1 box) – do not substitute powdered pectin
  • green food colouring

Remove the stems from the peppers. Puree the whole jalapeño peppers in a blender. Add the peppers without the seeds, and chop them in the blender. Add white vinegar and the bell peppers.

Transfer the pepper mixture into a large non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. Get it to a hard boil (lots of small bubbles), then continue boiling it for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now is also a good time to start sterilizing your jars and lids in hot water, if you haven’t done so already.

Remove the pepper mixture from heat. Add the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir thoroughly. Put the mixture back on medium-high heat, and return to a hard boil. When it’s boiling again, add liquid pectin and green food colouring (I used 10 drops), return to a boil, and boil for a full minute. (If you omit food colouring, the jelly may turn brown.)

The original recipe calls for straining the jelly, but we skipped that step because we don’t mind texture.

Pour into sterilized jars, then process in hot water for 15 minutes.

In retrospect, I think I added too much pectin, because I didn’t do the ounce-to-milliliter check with the original recipe. We’ll just have to see if it’s too solid or still somewhat spreadable. Meep! Worst-case scenario, we’ll treat this as our stash and make another batch for gifts. Oh my, whatever shall we do… Winking smile

Shanghaippy birthday, John Grimme! Recipe: Lumpiang shanghai

John Grimme, my sister’s fiance, celebrates his birthday tomorrow. (Well, today already, given time in the Netherlands.) He gets this bad pun because of his deep love for lumpiang shanghai, and because I’ve decided to get lots more drawing practice. =) Makes me wish I thought of making birthday illustrations like this earlier! Oh well, I’ll just have to do some drawings for other family members on other occasions.

image

He probably doesn’t need this recipe, but here it is for other people who are curious.

Lumpiang shanghai

These ingredients can be changed quite a bit. Experiment!

  • 500g ground pork (fat is okay)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • a few cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • spring roll wrappers: look for packages with photos of golden-brown deep-fried delicacies on them if you need to be sure, as rice wrappers don’t work as well as the other kinds do
  • egg, beaten (for sealing)
  • plum sauce (for serving)

Mix everything but the egg, the wrapper, and the plum sauce in a large mixing bowl. Test the seasoning by frying some of the filling in oil until the pork is cooked, then tasting it. When the filling tastes good, make the spring rolls.

Take a spring roll wrapper and spread it on a plate or saucer. Put a teaspoon of filling slightly below the wrapper center, in a long finger-width line. Leave space on either side of the filling so that you can tuck the ends in. Fold the near corner of the wrapper over the filling. Fold the sides inwards. Moisten the far edges of the wrapper with some of the egg, then roll up your wrapper until you reach the end, rolling it as tightly as you can.

(*Optional: Wash your hands, browse the Internet for a video on how to make it, then get back to making lumpia.)

Make as many as you can until you run out of wrappers or filling. If you run out of wrappers first, you can turn the rest of the filling into meatballs or little patties. If you run out of filling first, you can use the wrappers for other fried goodies.

If you want to freeze any of the lumpia, you can do so now. (When Tita Gay came over for our wedding, we made well over 300 pieces of lumpia. Everyone had all the lumpia they could eat, and we enjoyed the extras for almost a month afterwards.)

When you’ve made a batch of lumpia, heat 1-2 inches of oil in a frying pan until a piece of bread sizzles or until the oil smokes. (This is why we don’t make lumpia often – frying can be  scary!) Fry the lumpia a few at a time, turning or rolling them so that they cook evenly. Avoid overcrowding them, and give the oil time to heat up again between batches. Lumpia is done when it turns crispy and golden brown. Let them drain on paper towels or in a strainer, and break one open to test if it’s cooked inside. If it is, eat the evidence. Stop yourself from eating more. Fry up another batch. Test those for quality, too. Remember to leave some for your guests.

Serve warm, with plum sauce.

Recipes: Coconut cocktail bun recipe

As it turns out, ingredient lists are uncopyrightable, so I’ll try to post more of them when I write about our cooking adventures. (I’ve come quite a long way from the beginnings of Cook or Die!) Recipe steps might be copyrighted, particularly those that are creatively expressed, but that should be no problem – I’ll just write my own instructions.

So here are the buns that have just come out of our oven. (Yes, another set of buns. The ones I made just two days ago have vanished. There must be a bun-monster somewhere in the basement…)

After the success of this weekend’s coconut cocktail buns (gai mei bao), W- and J- suggested hotdog bao, Nutella bao, and some more coconut bao to use up the extra filling we had. Result:

Assorted buns

You will need a kitchen scale. This is actually good, because volume measurements of flour and other things can vary widely.

Gai Mei Bao – Chinese Cocktail Buns and flexible bun dough recipe
Adapted from David Ko’s Yung Sing Dim Sum Recipes (A Chinese Snackbook):

Bun Dough

David Ko uses this recipe for practically all the buns in his book. It’s a white, slightly sweet bread.

  • 12g active dry yeast
  • 495ml warm water
    • Dissolve yeast in water.
  • 340g sifted all-purpose flour
    • In a large mixing bowl, pour yeast solution into flour. The original recipe says to knead the result for 5 minutes, but this paste results in more of a liquid mix, so just mix it until it’s smooth.
    • Leave in a warm place for 2 hours. Or if you’re like us and baking season (winter) doesn’t leave you with an abundance of warm spots in the house, set the oven to 150’F for thirty seconds, then turn the oven off. Put the yeast mix into the oven and wait until it doubles in volume (around one hour).
  • 60ml warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 225g cake and pastry flour (sifted)
  • 560g all-purpose flour (sifted)
  • 110g sugar
  • 18g salt
  • 125ml milk
  • 3g lard
  • 3g butter
    • Mix all of the above with the yeast mix in a large mixing bowl. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary. Cover with a damp cloth (or cling wrap and a damp cloth; keeps your tea towels cleaner) and leave in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. You can use the oven trick here, too.

Coconut filling

  • 175g coconut flakes
  • 168g sugar
  • 56g melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (fun to make at home!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a few drops of coconut essence (optional; we didn’t have it in our pantry)
    • Mix well and put in the fridge.

We skipped the toppings because the regular coconut filling is awesome enough.

Assembly

  • Divide the dough into 24 portions. I tend to do this by cutting the dough in half three times, then cutting the resulting eight pieces into three pieces each.
  • Roll each portion of dough into a round ball. Arrange on a baking sheet, then cover and put in a warm place for 15 minutes.
  • Flatten the dough balls. I like using a rolling pin here for a nice, even look, although it does take more time than squishing the dough manually.
  • Spoon your filling into each flat piece of dough, wrap it up, and roll it into the shape you like. Try to make sure the buns are pinched closed, as the filling might leak out during baking.
  • Set buns aside in a warm place to rise further, covering the buns with a damp cloth or cling wrap. Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Do an egg wash or another wash if you want. Brushing the buns with a beaten egg (egg wash) gives them a beautiful golden colour, and also makes it easier for sprinkled things (seeds, etc.) to stick.
  • Bake buns in a 375F oven for 15 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.
  • You can brush the freshly-baked buns with melted butter, if you want, but we skipped that step.

Other fillings we’ve tried:

Hotdog
Wrap the flattened dough around a hotdog. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. You can push the sesame seeds into the dough slightly to help them stick.
Nutella
Spoon Nutella hazelnut spread into the middle of the flattened dough and roll it up. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle almond slices on top.

2011-03-14 Mon 23:14